Chinese Tributary System and the Chosŏn dynasty

Nov 2019
15
New Jersey, USA
Was the Chosŏn dynasty of Korea naturally accustomed to the Chinese tributary system due to Chinese cultural supremacy, Korean political defense, and Sino-Korean commercial relations? Alternatively, was the Chosŏn dynasty forced into the Chinese tributary system with political and military threats from the Ming and Qing dynasties of China as well as other foreign threats, and the Chosŏn dynasty’s desire to guarantee it’s own survival? To simplify my question, was the Chosŏn dynasty a willing participant of the Chinese tributary system, or was it forced upon them?
 
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Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,808
United States
Simple answer yes it was a willing participant. Early on Choson's relations with Ming were troubled (in part because Yi Songgye was technically a usurper). Choson wanted to align itself with and keep on the good side of the major power in the region, and the trade exchanges it would entail were very lucrative. This was finally established in 1399 and the Koreans were willing to accept unfair exchanges on China's part (as in human "tribute") for the benefits of the system. The upper classes of Choson eventually developed an ideological loyalty (which wasn't particularly present any time earlier) to Ming which lasted into the 17th century.

It's important to recognize this system was NOT tribute in the traditional one-way sense. From a realpolitick standpoint China gave Korea official recognition and official backing as long as the latter ensured it did not work with China's enemies. This was formally displayed in a ritual exchange of "tribute" and "investiture" which doubled as a large-scale trade exchange. In some cases Korean states adopted other ritual protocols such as using China's calendar and/or era names, etc.

Basically as long as Korea did not work against China, did the proper rituals, and engaged in the trade they didn't care what they did. Also the only time Korea had an ideological loyalty to another state was with Ming in the period c. 1399-1644, though the ideological loyalty to the Ming actually lasted long after its destruction.

EDIT: Nice use of the McCune-Reischauer romanization system. I can't stand the Revised system SK now officially uses. :)
 
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Nov 2019
15
New Jersey, USA
Is there any difference between the way the Qing dynasty conducted its tributary system compared to the Ming dynasty? I read that the Manchus forced the Koreans to pay tribute and the Koreans saw the Manchus as inferior.
 

Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,808
United States
Is there any difference between the way the Qing dynasty conducted its tributary system compared to the Ming dynasty? I read that the Manchus forced the Koreans to pay tribute and the Koreans saw the Manchus as inferior.
As far as I know there wasn't a difference with the exception of part of the late 19th century when Korea's sovereignty was quickly disappearing.

Yeah the Koreans didn't see the Qing as civilized Chinese, rather as barbarians, and saw themselves as the last bastion of classical Confucian civilization.
 
Nov 2019
15
New Jersey, USA
When King Kojong formed The Great Korean Empire he abandoned the tributary system. What caused this and if the Chosŏn dynasty remained a tributary state, could it have avoided being colonized by Japan?
 

Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,808
United States
When King Kojong formed The Great Korean Empire he abandoned the tributary system. What caused this and if the Chosŏn dynasty remained a tributary state, could it have avoided being colonized by Japan?
In the late 19th century Choson's autonomy was disappearing, steadily pretty much after 1875. Is this an assignment?
 
Nov 2019
15
New Jersey, USA
Yes, I am trying to form a thesis for a 15-page paper for a class on Modern Korean history. I figured asking questions in here could help me decide what would form a good thesis. I am set on the Chinese tributary system as a topic. My thesis so far will probably go along the lines of "The Chosŏn dynasty was a willing participant to the Chinese tributary system due to Chinese cultural supremacy, Korean political defense, and Sino-Korean commercial relations." However, maybe I should focus on the outcome rather than the causes. I have been doing research, but I find it helpful to discuss the topic with other people to help me form a better thesis. Also, if anyone has any primary or secondary sources that would be great.
 
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Jul 2019
28
Victoria
Yes, I am trying to form a thesis for a 15-page paper for a class on Modern Korean history. I figured asking questions in here could help me decide what would form a good thesis. I am set on the Chinese tributary system as a topic. My thesis so far will probably go along the lines of "The Chosŏn dynasty was a willing participant to the Chinese tributary system due to Chinese cultural supremacy, Korean political defense, and Sino-Korean commercial relations." However, maybe I should focus on the outcome rather than the causes. I have been doing research, but I find it helpful to discuss the topic with other people to help me form a better thesis. Also, if anyone has any primary or secondary sources that would be great.
15-pages, that must be quite taxing to write. Well, if you do decided to change the focus to the outcomes it might be interesting to know that there was an Incident in the Imjin invasion where Kato Kiyomasa's men found a hidden silver mine where the silver cupellation process was found. The magistrate had deliberately forbidden its usage to deny the techniques incorporation into the tributes.